Sony Financial Holdings Shares Debut in Tokyo

Trading of shares in Sony Financial Holdings Inc., the financial arm of Sony Corp., began on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Thursday morning as the company completed Japan's largest initial public offering of the year to-date.

The shares began trading at 9:20 a.m. local time (12:20 a.m. GMT) at %420,000, a 5 percent rise on the offer price of %400,000. During the morning session the shares hit a high of %424,000 before sliding back to %415,000 when trading closed for the day at 3 p.m.

Sony hasn't disclosed what it plans to do with the roughly %290 billion (US$2.5 billion) it raised through the sale of the 725,000 shares.

Sony Financial Holdings itself raised about %30 billion from a primary offering of an addition 75,000 shares. Half of the money will be invested in a joint venture it has formed with European insurance company Aegon BV and half in computer systems within the financial services group.

Sony Financial Holdings has under it three main branches: a life insurance company that's active in Japan and the Philippines; a non-life insurance business and Sony Bank, which handles both banking and online trading of securities.

The financial business has enjoyed the highest operating-profit margin of any of Sony's business units since 2005. In the last fiscal year that margin was 13 percent -- way ahead of the 4 percent at the movies business and 3 percent in its electronics sector. It contributed sales of %649 billion to Sony's total %8.3 trillion sales for the year and operating profit was %84 billion, although losses at other divisions meant Sony reported an overall operating profit of %72 billion.